By Moses Leos III
With its current wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) at near capacity, Buda must begin finding ways to handle the excess effluent.
The discussion came to a head at the March 18 city council meeting, when city engineer Stanley Fees said the plant had been running at 75 percent capacity for more than three months.
According to Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules, the design process to expand a WWTP must begin once the plant reaches 75 percent capacity for three consecutive months.
The current WWTP has been running above 75 percent (1.12 million gallons per day) since October 2013. Buda’s plant capacity is 1.50 mgd.
“The clock is ticking,” Fees told city council at the March 18 meeting.
Discussions of expanding the WWTP, which sits along Garison Road, have been at least two years in the making, according to city engineer Stanley Fees.
It stems from the city’s Master Plan from 2012, where the city estimated wastewater improvements over a 20-year span. According to the plan, the city’s WWTP was projected to reach 80 to 85 percent by 2015.
Eventual build-out of the WWTP projected a build-out of a 4.0 mgd facility.
However, unprecedented growth surpassed the city’s effluent projections. They were based off of the average daily flow of 1.017 mgd in 2010.
It forces the city to contemplate the future of its wastewater plans.
One option sought the expansion of the Sunfield WWTP.
In 2012, Buda and the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding Sunfield. It called for GBRA to allow Sunfield to become a regional WWTP, where Buda would divert effluent from its downtown facility.
A feasibility study, compiled by HDR in August 2013, spelled out how the city could divert effluent from the downtown plant to Sunfield.
In the study, Sunfield would be expanded from its current capacity of 0.06 mgd to a maximum of 6.0 mgd by 2040. The expansion would help divert increasing amounts of effluent from the downtown plant to Sunfield.
However, the cost of it all was the biggest concern – Buda would have to spend $27 million to build out Sunfield.
“I have a hard time spending that much money on another’s facility,” Mayor Todd Ruge said at the March 18 meeting.
City Manager Kenneth Williams said the city is not currently in negotiations with GBRA on Sunfield.
However, Williams said the city will continue to look at the study.
“We’ll continue to explore that option,” he said.
The focus now lies on expanding the current plant.
According to City Engineer Stanley Fees, the overall cost of the expansion is projected to cost $19.16 million, with a duration of 35 to 43 months.
The estimates raised some eyebrows from council members.
“I was concerned about that,” council member Wiley Hopkins said. “We are on a tight target base. If we stay on that target, we’ll be okay. If we falter at all, I can see it being punitive for us.”
Williams said the city is currently seeking requests for qualifications [RFQ’s] for the design of the plant expansion.
Fees said no troubles are present at the WWTP.
“We have to provide more [WWTP] facilities,” Fees said. “We have facilities for a 1.5 mgd (plant). We were instructed by council to provide another 1.5 mgd possibly. We’ll provide more of the same facilities.”
But would the city eventually need to expand out to Sunfield?
Williams said it may not be necessary.
“According to projections we have now, we could expand our existing plant and get to capacity if we need to,” he said.